An explosion targeted a mini bus carrying civilians and Lebanese army troops in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The explosion occurred at 7:50am according to one eyewitness. A Lebanese Army communique said that the attack left 11 people dead, including nine soldiers, and wounded 30 civilians and soldiers. The communique described the attack as a “terrorist act” targeted directly at the military institution and the peaceful coexistence in Lebanon. This terrorist act takes place just a few hours before President Michel Suleiman’s planned summit with the Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This summit is the first between the two countries in three years. Here are some of the first reactions in the Lebanese blogosphere:
Mustapha at Beirut Spring points to the divisions that sprout in the Lebanese political arena as well as among citizens whenever a terrorist event like this happens. He explains that the Lebanese, depending on their biases, immediately look in two different directions:
Those who are inclined to see the destructive hands of Syria at play can’t help but notice that whenever an important event is about to take place (large anti-syrian demo, the first ever sovereign presidential visit to damascus in today’s case), someone somewhere kills a lot of innocent people.
As March 14 M.P. Jawad Boulos put it this morning to the VL radio station: “the explosion of Tripoli is a message to president Sleiman that there are forbidden topics in today’s meeting with the Syrian president”
On the other hand, there are many who believe that all the ills emanating from the north are the doings of Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, monsters who were recently propped-up by the Sunni wing of March 14 (Hariri’s Almustaqbal Movement) in an ill-advised effort to counter Shiaa ascendancy in the form of Hezbollah.
In the eyes of this group, the terrorists are carrying out their revenge against the Lebanese army who put them to their knees and humiliated them during the Naher Al Bared showdown.
Antun at Lebanese Chess posted some photos and news reports. He also writes his take on the bombing which he finds unlikely to be linked to the recent sectarian clashes that has been taking place around Tripoli. He concludes that the attack is “an evidence of Lebanon's fragile internal security and that corruption is costing Lebanese lives.”
It appears too early to get a clear picture of who was behind the Tripoli bus bombing. The city and several surrounding villages have recently been embroiled in sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Alawites. But it is unlikely that either group would have carried out such a significant attack, which has the hallmarks of a typical Islamist operation.
Nahr el-Bared was the centre of a major confrontation between the Islamist movement, Fatah al-Islam, and the Lebanese Army last year. The bus today was carrying a number of soldiers, which suggests that they were the target. The main suspect that would deliberately launch a major attack on the scale of today's bus bombings is Fatah al-Islam.
The Ouwet Front blog posted more pictures of the aftermath of the explosion.